katherine-a-sherbrookeYou’ve said Fill the Sky, while fiction, is based in part on an actual trip you took to Ecuador. Is it true a shaman spit cologne on you?

Yes, as crazy as it sounds, that part is true. It was the first shamanic ceremony I had ever experienced. None of the others were quite so…sticky.


Wait, you didn’t go running from all shamans after that?

Actually the harder part, is when a shaman tells you things about yourself you know are true at some level and yet still don’t understand, or are unwilling to admit.


Like what?

Well this particular shaman basically told me I was “tired,” which I took offense to since I had left the company I had founded a year before and had been napping religiously ever since. How could I be tired? What he meant though, I understood later, was that I had yet to find what gave me fuel in my life, and so I was destined to feel continually drained if I didn’t figure that out.


So have you figured that out?

Well, switching from business to writing was a huge part of the puzzle for me, I think. While being an entrepreneur took a lot of creativity at some level, the process of inventing whole life stories for a cast of characters and designing a plot that weaves those stories together is a very different activity that gets me jazzed like nothing I’ve done before. Most people don’t feel they are indulging their guilty pleasure by going to work every day, but that’s how I feel when I dive into a story.


So about those characters, the novel is told from the alternating point of views of three different women. Which one is you?

None of them! Well, all of them.


So which is it?

Actually, the first draft of this book had a fourth character that was a not-so-thinly veiled version of me. Her experience in Ecuador was very close to my own. Needless to say, that character didn’t make it into the final book. But, to be honest, I’m still really infused into each of the three main characters. Tess is an entrepreneur and likes to take charge, so there’s lots of me in her. Ellie sees the world very much through the lense of motherhood and her desire to be a good friend, so I relate to that part of her for sure. And Joline…I was recently talking to a couple of friends of mine about how energy connects us and one of them looked at me and said, “ I have no idea what the F you are talking about.” So to some people I suppose I sound as wacky as Joline will seem to some readers.


Nature seems to play a very important role in this book. Can you talk about that?

Thank you for noticing. It is an important theme in the book that we as humans don’t control everything that we think we do and aren’t nearly as clever as nature. There is so much we could learn from nature if we could just get out of her way. Sadly, we have designed so much of our culture, in America anyway, to function almost outside of what is natural—too hot? don’t slow down, just turn on the AC; too dark? don’t go to bed, turn on the lights; too much rich food? pop an antacid—but if we could surrender a bit to what nature has in mind, we just might feel a little less out of kilter.


For example?

I have stopped wondering why I don’t sleep well during a full moon. I just don’t. I used to toss and turn in frustration all night, and then realize three days later why—full moon again. Duh. Now I keep a moon calendar. Somehow knowing when the full moon is coming has taken the struggle out of it. It’s a little like planning for a red-eye. I try to get a little extra sleep leading up to it, and during the flight itself, I don’t expect to sack out, so I spend less time cursing the minutes I can’t sleep and more time appreciating any winks I’m able to get.


What was the hardest part for you about writing this book?

Probably that there are no limits on what you can do in fiction. From introducing a natural disaster to finding a tiny plot twist that changes everything, the choices are limitless. And sometimes a small new element can have a very messy domino effect on the rest of the story. So you’re faced with the possibility of scrapping significant portions of the work because you realize there was a turn you could have taken in the road fifty pages back that would make the rest of the ride much more interesting.


Sounds hard. How do you force yourself to do that?

It’s really hard. And the sections that have to go inevitably include the most beautiful paragraphs I have ever written (the darlings everyone talks about), but if they don’t serve the story anymore, they have to go. To talk myself into it, I usually save the deleted portions in a file and tell myself I will use them another time.


And do you ever reuse them?

I haven’t yet, but don’t tell myself I told me that.


KATHERINE A. SHERBROOKE received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and M.B.A. from Stanford University. An entrepreneur and writer, she is the author of Finding Home, a family memoir about her parents’ tumultuous and inspiring love affair. This is her first novel. She lives outside Boston with her husband, two sons, and black lab. Visit her online at www.kasherbrooke.com, on Facebook, or @kazzese.


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